Now this is where all the flavor develops, and remember it starts at the time you added your levain. I find it’s around 6 hours if I use 20% leaven, keep my dough at 73-75F, and the ambient temperature in my kitchen is 73-75F too.
I do my first fold 30 minutes after I finish mixing. Before each fold, I like to pull a piece of dough with a wet hand. I feel how it is on my fingers. Is it tacky? Does it stick to my fingers? It changes with each fold, and I like to see and feel this change. I also pull a gluten window by gently stretching the dough in all directions to see how thin I can get it before it starts to tear. When it’s thin, I also like to poke at it with my finger tip to see and feel how “strong” it is without tearing. @autumn_kitchen can get her dough so strong that she can basically wrap her hand in it. Personally, I’ve yet to do this….
Remember how the dough looks and feels to you each time you touch it. It’ll change at every turn. With practice, you’ll learn these changes and what they mean to you.
I start out with a strong fold that I learned from @fullproofbaking. I wet my hand and go around the bowl loosening the dough. I lightly mist the bench with water. I wet my hands again and pick up the dough gently. I turn it over and set it on the bench. I try to keep it in a nice round or rectangular shape. I mist my bench knife with water. Push it under the bottom edge of the dough and gently pull it out as far as it will go and fold it over about ⅔ of the way across. I then do the same thing on the top edge. Then the left edge. And then the right edge. I mist my bench knife again and flip the dough over onto the bench. With my bench knife, I round up the dough to tighten it a bit. I then place it in a new container, not the bowl. I like square or rectangular glass containers with a high side. Check the temperature and make a note of it. I like it to be 73-75F. I cover it with a shower cap.
I like to do my folds every 30-45 minutes. It’s not an exact science. I’m running out of room, so I’ll have to finish up talking about folding during the bulk fermentation on the next post.